Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed ‘Clean Slate’ legislation into law on Monday, reforming the current criminal expungement laws and providing former prisoners with more opportunities for employment and housing in the state of Michigan. 

The two bills, House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120, allow former prisoners to qualify for an automatic process that will set aside eligible misdemeanors and non-assaultive felonies after 10 years, as well as expungement for various traffic offenses. They also allow for an individual to remove marijuana offenses if they occurred after marijuana became recreationally legal in 2018. 

The expungement of marijauna convictions was one of Whitmer’s key campaign promises during her 2018 campaign for governor, as well as prioritizing other criminal justice reforms. 

While in office, she has created a bipartisan task force — the Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration — to review Michigan’s jail and court data and to try to seek out alternatives to jail time for prisoners. The governor also signed the “Civil Asset Forfeiture” law to prevent law enforcement from seizing a person’s property before they have been convicted. 

Under Whitmer’s leadership, the state of Michigan also joined 46 other states in increasing the age in which a person can be tried and convicted as an adult from 17 to 18 years old. 

In a press release after signing the bills, Whitmer said this opportunity will allow for more people to have expanded access to jobs and will boost the workforce in Michigan, allowing formerly incarcerated citizens to have an easier time in seeking out opportunities to live a normal life. 

“This is a historic day in Michigan,” Whitmer said in the press release. “These bipartisan bills are a game changer for people who are seeking opportunities for employment, housing and more, and they will help ensure a clean slate for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders … I am proud to sign these bills today alongside Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and many of the bipartisan leaders who worked on them.”

In the same press release, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said these bills have the potential to help the economy because of their anti-poverty and pro-job landscape. He said the bills will allow for more formerly incarcerated individuals to be able to get a home and secure a job. 

“This is the right thing to do on behalf of people everywhere who deserve another chance, and will help improve livelihoods,” Gilchrist said. “There is more work to do, but Michigan has now established itself as a leader in removing barriers to economic opportunity for people who have made mistakes.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also expressed support for the legislation. Nessel said in a press release her previous experience as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Wayne County as well as a criminal defense attorney showed her that the expungement process in Michigan was in need of reform.

“We not only needed to expand the types and numbers of offenses that could be eligible for expungements, but we also needed to make that process more accessible to our residents,” Nessel said in the press release. “This package of bills accomplishes both of these missions and that is why I consider it a step forward in Michigan’s effort to implement lasting criminal justice reforms.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Julia Forrest can be reached at 

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